Only a handful of Birmingham gunmakers survived the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the period of austerity that followed. But one was established, survived, and ultimately succeeded during this difficult period for the trade. Albert Arthur Brown was the son of John Joseph Brown, a gunmaker who had at one time worked for Webley & Scott, B.S.A., and W. W. Greener and who ended his working career as resident caretaker with Greener.

 

The W.W.Greener factory, called The Prize Gun Works, Birmingham faced St. Mary’s Row with Loveday Street to the side. In the doorway of the picture in top left stands John Brown, Caretaker of Greeners for the last 20 years of his life. That this building should be demolished for city re-development seems such a crime now. It should just have been relocated instead! John was A.A.Brown’s father and was one of five sons all employed in the gun trade. Sidney recalls, as a small boy, visiting his grandfather on a Sunday and being taken through the factory to help with “the rounds”. “Mind that step” he would be told, “you’ll set off a blank if you tread on it!”.

 

 A. A. Brown was an action filer who carved the leaf fences for the Birmingham trade. Although English gunmakers are a conservative lot by nature, not given to decorating their products with the bas-relief so familiar on Teutonic weapons, better-quality sidelocks are occasionally found with ivy, fern and oak leaves chased to the fences. It is difficult, demanding work requiring a hammer and chisel instead of the normal hand-held graver, but Albert Arthur Brown was considered one of the few men capable of executing it.

 

 

During the lean years of the 1930’s it was not uncommon for gunsmiths to turn their hand to bicycle making. So it was with Albert Brown Snr. He hand made the tandem to the left and is pictured with his younger son, Sidney. Albert Jnr. and his brother could average 30 mph on this bike.

 

A very wealthy few managed to breeze through the Depression in magnificent style, ordering best guns as usual. Since A. A. Brown made a specialty of building high-quality guns that were ultimately signed by more prestigious firms, he appears to have survived by virtue of the trickle-down effect. On the eve of the Second World War Albert Arthur was joined by his eldest son, Albert Henry, born in 1913. A few months later a second son, Sidney Charles, born in 1916, also came on board.

 To right; Albert Arthur Brown, Albert Henry Brown and Sidney Charles Brown.

 

In the photograph to the left you’ll find Albert Arthur Brown with his elder sister, Polly, in the Shirley premises, c.1943. Wives and sisters, as many as possible, were required to work on lathes to help with the work supporting the war department contract. Albert's niece, Gladys, became the fastest “Spitfire” riveting tool maker of them all!

 

In the photograph below you’ll find Sidney Brown displaying a .410 box lock ejector made for the USA in about 1949. Photograph taken at the Sand Street premises at the top of the outside stairs. The angled wall in the right hand background is a result of a bomb raid. Most of the buildings in Sand Street were destroyed during WWII, the far distant building is in Weaman Street, down the road from W & S.

The photo to the right shows employees Harry Homer (jointer) and Harold Scandrett (machinist) outside the three storey premises at 4, Sand Street, Birmingham.

Brown’s had their own cricket team during the fifties and sixties. the field they used was just outside the city boundary and they played there, in a league, most Sundays during the summer season.

 

Robin Brown, aged 16, stocking a fore end in the early days of his apprenticeship to A.A.Brown and Sons. The photograph to the left, taken in 1961 by Albert Brown using his twin lens reflex camera, is in the upstairs workshop of the premises rented by Browns from Westley Richards. Two years later W-R started work on a purpose built unit to house Browns within the central courtyard of their factory. This new two storey building would be the home of A.A.Brown until 1974. Robin served a five year apprenticeship in stocking under the Master stock maker Albert Thompson followed by another in action making taught by Albert, Sidney and Harry Homer, an employee whose speciality was jointing, the fitting of barrels to action.

 

From 1962 until 1967 Robin worked one day per week under the guidance of “Mr Thompson” who taught him the craft of stock making, starting on fore ends and by the end stocking best sidelocks. AJT was stamped on his work and many of his tools and following his sad demise in 1972, Robin was delighted to discover that Albert had left him his stocking tools in his will, Many of these tools are still in use today including a set of very fine chisels. During his years of full time employment he worked for W.W.Greener as a screwer and finisher, in those days stocking was broken down into “sections”, whereas when he turned freelance he worked almost exclusively for Browns as a stocker from the fifties until about 1971. the quality of his work was second to none and many fine guns, still in use today, sport stocks fitted by A.J.Thompson.

 

 

The picture shown to the right is reproduced with the kind permission of Douglas Thompson, grandson of A.J.Thompson.

 

To the left Robin Brown aged 17, c.1963, displaying a .410 best sidelock made for an American client of Westley Richards. Photographed on the shooting range at the factory with the grounds of Birmingham University over the wall.

 

The photograph to the left shows the old Westley Richards factory in Bournbrook, Birmingham. The ground floor windows closest to the camera, plus the three above, once housed A.A.Brown and Sons before their own dedicated two storey home was built. You can see the Brown’s old doorway, now bricked up. This site is now home to the Selly Oak bypass section of the A38. (Photo courtesy of Bob Turner).

 

The three pictures to the left show the Alvechurch premises in 1974 before moving in, the mid nineties and at the current time. The observant among you will notice three Subaru Legacy's across these pictures, from '92, 2001 and 2009. there have been others too. The picture below shows the A.A.Brown & Sons sign, put up in 1974 and still in place today.

 

The picture below shows the late Harold Scandrett , the longest serving A.A.Brown employee, working on the lead lapper at the Alvechurch premisies. He sadly died in a collision driving home from work in 1998.

To the left you'll find Albert Henry Brown hard at work in 1977. To the right is the Master engraver, Keith Thomas. His fine rose and scroll has been a firm favourite of A.A.Brown and Sons since the nineteen eighties.

To the right you'll find Robin and Sidney posing with the 28 bore Jubilee gun in the early days at the Alvechurch premises.

The picture to the left shows Sidney still at work in 2003.

To the left, Robin on a Derbyshire shoot with nine A.A.Brown guns used that day.

The picture below and to the left shows Robin at the bench in September 2015. The picture directly below shows Matthew Brown checkering a gun-stock at the bench in 2016.

 

GUNMAKERS

A.A.BrownandSons

History

A.A.Brown & Sons

1 Snake Lane

Birmingham

B48 7NT

United Kingdom

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